Canyonlands National Park is huge and the sweeping views are massive, it’s really hard to capture them on camera and to see every part. We definitely gave it the old college try!
I really love this quote from Major John Wesley Powell that they have at the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands. He described the area that is now the park as a “strange, weird, grand region of naked rock with cathedral-shaped buttes, towering hundreds or thousands of feet, cliffs that cannot be scaled and canyon walls that shrink the river into insignificance.”
Capitol Reef National Park, especially Cathedral Valley, had made me feel insignificant in the universe, the feeling is multiplied by ten at Canyonlands National Park!
We visited the main park and checked out all the overlooks that most people visit. We did a couple of sunset shoots but they weren’t that successful. In the afternoon the sky is filled with big billowing clouds but come sunset they all join together and block the sun, at least while we were visiting. Nonetheless, the vistas are incredible.
If you have a 4×4 then a better way to see the canyons and their magnitude is by driving through them. You can access the White Rim trail from the main park by descending Shafer’s Trail, but you need ice in your veins, it looks like this:
Or you can do what we did and enter from Potash Road. Most of it is less nerve-wracking and you still need a 4×4, but there are tons of Jeeps for rent in Moab. Like this one that was about a mile behind us.
On this road, you get great views of horseshoe bend and the Island of Skye. Potash ends and you meet the White Rim trail (or you can go up Shafer Trail to get to the main park).
To do the complete White Rim Trail takes about 15 days, we just did a single harrowing hour, but it gave us great views as well as a few heart attacks. We were also competing with mountain bikers for the road. I salute anyone who is gutsy enough to do that trail!
There are three parts to the park: the needles, the maze and the Island of Skye (the main park).
We visited the Needles District for the day. We were bummed that most of the off-road roads were closed and the only other way to see some of the park’s arches was to hike between 10-15 miles (depending on the arch). We weren’t up for that.
We did see the Dutch Shoe and the needles. The drive to that part of the park (about 90 minutes from Moab, the opposite direction from the Island of Skye) has beautiful fields of purple flowers which we stopped to take pictures of.
You can only access the maze with a 4×4, it’s the middle part of the park accessed via the Hans Flat Ranger Station which is closer to Goblin Valley State Park. From there it is still about a 6-hour drive to the maze – wowza!
If you have the luxury of visiting several days like we did. After you visit all the overlooks and see the park from the canyons, the absolute best way to see both Canyonlands and Arches National Park is from the air.
We took a 90-minute flight through the parks and it was amazing to see everything we had visited the previous 10 days from the air. It really tied it all together.
How about you? Have you been to Canyonlands National Park? Do you plan to visit one day?